Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Book Review

Book Review
The Yearbook
Allison B. Condie

It was the first day of school at Lakeview High, and everyone was afraid of something… The doors to the school swung open and closed, once, twice, a thousand times, and all the students came in, bumping into each other and walking down the hall together and passing one another. Stories were everywhere.
The bell rang, and the school year began.

The Jock. The Brain. The Class Clown. The Goth. The Ice Princess. The Wallflower…
High school is all about finding your place in the world, figuring out where you belong, who you want to be. For Michaela, Ethan, Andrea, Julie, Tyler, Avery, and Dave, their teachers, and their principal, this will be a year they will never forget.

Follow each character through the ups and downs of the school year as they discover the many ways their lives intertwine, recognize how their actions change their own lives and the lives of their friends, and learn that the person behind the label has more to offer than they can ever imagine.
(summary taken from the back cover of Yearbook)

This book was well-written, but after having read it I probably wouldn’t have bought it if I had read it first. The story has an awesome hook. It details the fears of many different characters in the story. These fears are so familiar and relatable to the average teen. I was excited to read on and find out about all these people, and how they would overcome their fears. One problem is that there are so many characters it was really hard for me to keep them apart. I loved reading about the track meets, and characters personalities, and how they worked their way through things. Yet, some characters got too little screen time and others too much screen time. Another problem was that there was too much that wasn’t resolved for me. The book was really short and felt like it could have been longer to tie up a few more loose ends. So, in the end it really was the fact that the plot arch left me unsatisfied. I really wanted more of a satisfactory plot for a novel that I paid for. I know that the book has a sequel that would answer all my questions, but I’m still kind of annoyed about how many characters I would have to remember, when I had trouble with that in the first place, in order to get into the sequel. So in conclusion, good writing, good characterization, good idea, but not a very satisfactory plot, and tons of characters to remember. I suppose a reader must take the good with the bad.

If you think I absolutely must read Condie's First Day sequel tell me three reasons you thought it was better than the first book in the comments.

Friday, January 25, 2008

First Impressions

First Impressions
This is a little series that details my experiences reading books for an hour a day in the library. I read the book either until I became disinterested in it or until I finished it.

Tempest Tossed by Josi Kilpack?
This book immediately drew me in I couldn’t put it down. I wanted to know what happened next and how the problems presented in this book would be resolved. This book is about Janet a single career mother, who is on her third divorce. She has a young son named Josh that she loves and tries to take care of the best she can. In the course of the book the reader watches Janet spiral downward in the clutches of a prescription drug addiction. She meets and falls in love with a wonderful man named Terry. Terry discovers that Janet has a drug problem and tries hard to protect Josh, but in the end all of Janet’s lying leads him to feel betrayed and used. Eventually Janet ends up in a rehab clinic and is faced with the choice of starting anew or retaining her old habits.
This was an awesome book. It was hard to like the main character, Janet, because she was such a snob, but you really did empathize with her plight. For the sake of her son and her new husband Terry, you wanted her to have a happily ever after. I love how this book has such a strong message on the atonement and how we need to forgive those we love when they hurt and betray us. I would recommend this book to everyone, though readers should be aware that it is a little bit depressing. I’ve been a fan of Josi’s books for a year or so now. I really enjoy her style. Go out and read her books!
Author’s website:
Author’s blog:

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Book Review: Forget Me Not by Michelle Ashman Bell

Book Review
Forget Me Not By Michelle Ashman Bell
Dalton McNamara, a veteran of the Vietnam war, travels to find his first wife’s relatives so his daughter Skyler can learn more about her heratige. Dalton also hopes that on his trip he can find peace. He was held prisoner of war the last time he visited Vietnam. He hopes that with his wife Paige’s help he can overcome the memories that haunt him, and teach his daughter Skyler to accept her past and her birth mother’s choices. Traveling in rural Vietnam proves more dangerous than they had originally planned, and they end up in a Vietnamese prison, which might not let them return home, ever.

*Spoilers in this section*

I thought that this was a decent book. The story-line was very touching, and the setting extremely cool. The characters are likable, though Sky annoyed me because she was portrayed as a whiny teenager with little other characterization at the beginning of the book. Perhaps that was the author view for her, but I felt that the characterization was superficial at times. The prose was sometimes awkward and forced, along with the dialogue. Yet, there is a lot of wonderful description, interesting characters, and suspenseful moments. Though, I sometimes thought that the plot was unbelievable. In the course of the book the main characters get thrown into a Vietnamese prison, and actually get out again even if it is supposed to be impossible. Then there was the fact that the book only recorded the positive effects of being in the prison, increased spirituality, gratitude for freedom, and appreciation for prisoners of war. The author doesn’t portray any lasting negative emotional side effects at all, which was so incredibly unrealistic that it was annoying. This is a reason why people bash LDS fiction, because the authors don't deal honestly with human emotion, especially negative ones. Sometimes, the author just can’t take their characters or reader to that level of darkness, and that is a major weakness. So the book was okay, and in the end the story did touch me despite the fact that the book had a few weaknesses.

Michelle Ashman Bell website:

Monday, January 21, 2008

Book Review:Specials by Scott Westerfeld

Book Review
Extras by Scott Westerfeld

Aya is young teen trying to find her place in the world left over after Tally Youngblood destroy the specials control of the planet. In her town popularity is everything. Popularity rankings get you bigger houses, nicer clothes, and tons of influence. Aya tries to imitate her older brother and “kick” important news stories in order to get popular. She hooks up with a clique called the sly girls, while secretly planning to kick their story and become famous. These girls hate popularity and go on adventures out in the woods. They do anything to get a high, like surf on the top of high-speed trains and parachute from the sky. Then one night the girls discover an arsenal full of metal rounds in it. Aya has discovered the story of the century! A story that even gets Tally Youngblood involved.

I liked this book even more than I liked specials. I was really worried about not liking the fact that main viewpoint character had changed, but now I think it probably should have been done. It was wonderful to get a fresh young perspective on this new world and all the technology happenings. For better or worse, the fact that Tally is a Special make her a less empathetic character. It was nice to see her in this book along with the old crew. This story takes place in a different place than the last book. It is placed in some kind of futuristic Japanese society, which adds a whole new flavor to the slang and dialogue of the story, which has always been one of my favorite parts. This book does not disappoint. Go read it!

Friday, January 18, 2008

First Impressions: Tangled Roots

First Impressions
This is a little series that details my experiences reading books for an hour a day in the library. I read the book either until I became disinterested in it or until I finished it.

Tangled Roots by G.G. Vandergriff

I ended up finishing this book and picking it up day after day. The main plot involves a two woman Alex, and Bertie, who have started a genealogy company. This company doesn’t focus merely on charts and tables, but on how a family history creates reality for present day descendents. The main character Alex is called in by a psychologist friend who asks her to come help in the case of a girl, who is in her hospital institution for doing drugs. She refused to talk and so do her parents, so she wants Alex to find out about the history of these people so they can help the girl to open up. Alex doesn’t find the immediate family willing to speak to her, but the grandmother helps them. She tells them about the mysterious, unsolved death of her father, which was complicated by the fact that his inheritance was of no small amount. The farther Alex searches the more inconsistencies and unexpected things she starts to find. As, she is searching up this family’s secrets people start following her, and her mother is kidnapped.

I really loved this book! The story stayed with me long after I finished reading for the day, and the next day I would be so excited that I got to read it again. I initially picked it up because it had a nice cover, but the mystery and intricacies of the family history in this book fascinated me. It wasn’t a normal run of the mill mystery story and the ending actually surprised me! I never would have guessed what the ending would turn out to be and that was delightful. The book is the third in a series and so I didn’t understand the main character’s love triangle plot very well, but it was understandable enough. So I found this book to be an awesome read and would recommend it to genealogist and mystery lovers alike.

Link to Author’s Website:

Read about how this book is literally a miracle! (such an awesome story!)
Link: (scroll down to article called the case of the forgotten manuscript)

Friday, January 11, 2008

First Impressions

First Impressions
This is a little series that details my experiences reading books for an hour a day in the library. I read the book either until I became disinterested in it or until I finished it.

Lost Without You by Annette Lyon
This book I think passed the hour test four times. So I was really interested in it for a while. The book is the story about a college girl, who breaks up with her boyfriend Christopher. Only to find out that he has bi-polar and sometimes goes suicidal and crazy when he goes off his meds. She is relieved that she found this out and stays away from him after that. The second plot line revolves around a handsome cop that seems to always find her in interesting predicaments. They feel a compelling attraction for one another and date until she finds out that he was a widower. She then has a major crisis over whether or not she can marry him now. She wants to be the only love of the man she marries, but knows that he loved his first wife. She confused about what she should choose and when Christopher begins to harass her she isn’t sure what to do.

So you can see I initially liked this book, but I mostly didn’t finish it when she started getting all angsty over the whole widower thing. I mean it is a valid concern, but the whole thing seemed so fake to me. I’m not sure why, but I really couldn’t relate to the characters situation anymore. It seemed that it took her way too long to get over this problem. She even stops seeing him over it. Plus, I was much more interested in the Christopher plot line. I got bored so I eventually picked up another book to try out and never felt compelled to pick this one up again. So I guess the characters really didn’t interest or stick with me that much.
Annette Lyon blog Link:

She also has a very nice web page:

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Book Review: Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson

Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians
By Brandon Sanderson

Aspiring Asimovs! This book is clever, but you must be warned that the author is not a very nice person--at all. Remember that I warned you in this review so you can’t blame me when you discover just how cruel he is, and it’s not my fault if I get you in trouble with some particularly nasty Librarians if you pick this book up either. This book is about a boy named Alcatraz Smerdy, who has been shunted from foster home to foster home all of his life. In fact, he just might be on home number 27. Quite a feat for a 13-year-old boy, but there is a reason Alcatraz is moved so often. He has a unique talent, a talent for breaking things. Then on his birthday he receives a bag of sand from his parents for his inheritance. Alcatraz is not at all impressed with this gift until his grandfather shows up the next day and explains just how important the sands are to them in their fight against the evil Librarians, who control most of the world’s information. His grandfather is too late(as usual) and the Librarians have already snatched the bag of sand. Alcatraz is then dragged into infiltrating the downtown library in order to snatch back this important bag of sand.
This was another wonderful book by Brandon Sanderson. I smiled and laughed my way through the book and loved all his cruel, yet witty asides. I would recommend this book for all ages, especially if you want something fun to read with your kids.
Brandon Sanderson also writes epic fantasy for Tor books. He has an awesome Trilogy out called Mistborn, and a stand-alone fantasy novel called Elantris. Recently, he has gotten the honor of finishing the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Book Review: Austenland by Shannon Hale

Book Review
By Shannon Hale

Jane Hayes has had a run of crummy boyfriends; each relationship seems to fail for one reason, leaving her miserable and bitter. Her experience with men cannot live up to her fantasy dream of Colin Firth in the A&E version of Pride and Prejudice. Her Great Aunt Carolyn leaves her a surprising gift in her will. She gives her an all expense paid trip to Regency Era England at an actor’s park named Austenland. Jane determines that this three week trip is the only way to get over her fantasy finally. Her one last hurrah helps her to realize important things about what she wants for her life. She gets entangled in a love triangle with two men, a comfortable gardener and a highbrow gentleman, but both of them are pretending for the sake of the park experience, or so she thinks.

This story is a sweet romantic story that puts a normal American career woman in a fun and fanciful situation. Jane’s quirkiness made me laugh out loud several times. The setting is beautiful, creative, and plain fun. The whole story harkens back to Austen’s style, and is a clever tribute to her works. I think that all Austen lovers will enjoy this book, as well as all clean romance lovers. So, if you have a craving for a clean romance with a Regency twist, then this is a well-crafted work to pick up.

Check out all the extras on Shannon's site, including alternate endings from earlier drafts!

Friday, January 4, 2008

First Impressions

First Impressions This is a little series that details my experiences reading books for an hour a day in the library. I read the book either until I became disinterested in it or until I finished it.
Though Love’s Trials by Julie Coulter Bellon
This book passed the hour experiment twice, so the first time I read it I like it enough to pick it up a second time. The story starts with a prologue, which introduces Emma, who wants to have a baby badly and is excited to find out that she is pregnant. She worries a little bit about telling her husband, Paul, because he has expressed no interest in having children and instead wants to save up for a yacht and a bunch of worldly things. She tells him about the pregnancy when he comes home for their anniversary. Paul is angry and tells her that she should get an abortion and she has to choose between the baby and him. The first chapter starts with the Paul in the midst of running a successful law business and Emma apparently has divorced him and moved to Utah and became a member of the LDS church. Then he offers a partnership to a younger member of the law firm, Kenneth King. Paul hands over some files for the Kenneth to deliver to his ex-wife in Salt Lake. Then suddenly Paul is found dead in his office, and Kenneth finds himself in some sticky situations and realizes that people are after the files that his now dead employer handed off to him.
Thus starts the plot of this book. Why didn’t I read more, when the plot arch sounds promising and exciting? I was too interested in the conflict that the prologue brought up. I really wanted to see the couple work things out or at least watch things fall apart. I was way too interested in Paul’s character. I wanted to understand his motivations and wanted to see him have some depth. I really wanted to see his love for his wife battle with his selfishness, but that whole conflict was cut off and ended by the time I got to the first chapter. That just left me annoyed with Paul because he ended up being a shallow cardboard cutout, and an over the top cliché. Then there is the fact that the chances for seeing his character develop more died with the fact that he was murdered in his office. Then Kenneth who took over just really didn’t interest me. He had a dubious and interesting background story over a dead fiancée, but the conflict just didn’t interest me anymore. Then there was the fact that it took him forever to make the connection between the files and the death and so the suspense was slower pace than I wanted. To add on top of these things the prose writing didn’t impress me spectacularly. So, I decided to move on to something that I knew I would like more and didn’t have to wade through pages to enjoy the story.
Julie Bellon writes a blog at Six LDS Writer and a Frog blog.
Here is her website: